I am an atheist from a Catholic background with a 'mostly' lapsed Catholic husband and two small kids.


I will follow my Catholic roots first and make a confession... on the birth of my firstborn child I allowed myself to be swayed by my husband and mother into having my son baptised. 

Those close to me are very much aware of my atheist standpoint and by and large we have been able to 'agree to disagree' without too much conflict but on this point my mother and my husband actually agree for the first time in their lives and stood united in their determination to have our darling babe safe in the arms of their beloved Father.

I was swayed by the temptation of throwing a party for what was obviously the most gorgeous and intelligent baby boy ever to grace the earth, and had some vaque ideas about possible future enrollments in the really good Catholic schools in the area (one of which I went to).  I made a deal that my boy could be Christened as long as I didnt actually have to do anything with regards to the organising, and felt fairly safe that this would prove impossible for them to organise due to the fact that we were not married in a church, I had not been confirmed in the catholic church, and we never actually attended mass.


They were not to be put off however, and accomplished the feat by bribing a notoriously liberal priest in a small parish nearby with a 'donation' of $300!

The ceremony was performed quietly after the Saturday morning mass.  I, slightly red-faced, mumbled the appropriate phrases under the watchful and approving eye of my Mother, went home and had a big party, and have regretted the whole thing ever since.


I now found myself under increasing pressure to baptise our second baby, and using various kinds of delaying tactics have managed to stall the final confrontation thus far... no east feat as she has just turned 2!

It is beginning to cause serious tension in my family and wondered on other's standpoints in this area.  Am I being unreasonable in not pandering to my Mother's sincere belief that her granddaughter is going to burn in hell if she dies before being baptised?

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My family and my wife's family are both Catholic, and my wife and I were once Catholic as well. But I will tell you this... If we ever decide to have kids, the will NOT be baptized! I don't care how much our families fuss (I doubt mine would), our child our choice. To be honest, I abore the the very concept of paedobaptism and did not attend my nephews baptism due to the fact that I feel that religion (or lack thereof) should be something the individual chooses for themselves, rather than thrust upon them from infancy. If I were in your shoes, I wouldn't baptize the second. But then again, I wouldn't have baptized the first either. Sadly, not that the precedent has been set, not doing it again will look you look to be the bad guy even more in their eyes... I feel that there is an important question to ask here. It sounds like it is the family is the one pushing you... but what about your husband? If he is lax on the subject, than the issue should pass over time and be easier to manage. But if he is pushing for it too, the situation gets much more sticky.

Thanks for your reply!

My husband is pushing for a baptism, but not, I suspect,  out of any real religious convictions, more that he feels pressure to do the 'right'thing in terms of our society, our family, and our community.  He always feels a strong need to 'please' the people around him and I think this counteracts his personal skepticism.


I think that I may end up getting my way with this one.  Two years old is already a bit old for a Christening in the Catholic church and going now might raise more eyebrows (why did it take them so long?) than a 'lets not and say we did'approach.


Of course for me this is morally worse that actually allowing the baptism, but then that was always my original beef with the church as a teenager, how things looked was always more important than whether or not they were actually right.

I would like to add that I do NOT think you are making something out of nothing. While the vow and ceremony is empty to us, that doesn't mean we should just let the religious have it all their way. Should we allow mandatory prayer in public schools? Of course not! To me, your situation is the same sort of question. There is obviously the principle of the matter. But one also has to consider people like my mother-in-law. She's of the opinion that once you're a Catholic, you're a Catholic for life... like it on not. She tries to tell herself that I am and am still maturing... :/  Little does she know that I've formally defected from the church and am officially NOT a Catholic. If my wife and I had a kid and baptized it, I know my mother-in-law would never relent on indoctrination attempts, because in her mind he/she would be Catholic no if's and's or but's. That's just one good reason to stand your ground. I'd suggest sitting down with just your husband and have a quiet talk about this. Lay out your thoughts and see if you can find out how much HE really wants this and how much is just appeasing his family.
It is funny how much people make out of something to insignificant. If your family is being pushy and wants to sprinkle magic water and oil on your baby's head then let them. It does nothing in the long run, your children's view on religion will be more influenced by what you teach them than by the fact that some church leader sprayed them in the face with water while babbling nonsense. Not to mention that if it is a Catholic service it can all be undone later by filing a formal declaration of defection from the church (Actus Formalis Defectionis ab Ecclesia Catholica). And even though the canon laws governing formal declaration are no longer recognized as a valid means of defection, it is still enough to secure an excommunication under Canon Law 1364 §1n. 2 due to declaration of apostasy.

Well this was part on my thinking the first time round, it's a meaningless ceremony for me, and for the baby of course since he or she doesnt have a clue what is going on.  Also on the plus side you get 'Godparents' of your choice, (suitably non-religious ones in my case) who are then duty-bound to remember your kids on their birthdays etc, take them for ice cream, and all those other Godly duties.


What is more disturbing for me is that as the Mother, I have to take certain vows as part of the ceremony, basically agreeing to raise my child in the catholic church, with catholic morals and standards, and to continue the catholic indoctination of my child through first communion and then confirmation.


But the vows are just as meaningless as the baptism itself. You're not signing a legal document saying that you must do X, Y and Z otherwise you go to jail. It is otherwise you will face God's wrath, which as an atheist you shouldn't be concerned with anyway. I was baptized, as were all four of my siblings, both myself as well as the three who are old enough to make decisions on their own (my youngest sibling is 4 so he doesn't really count) are all atheists despite an otherwise fairly religious family.

In my head a vow is a vow, even if it is made to my husband's imaginary friend. 

I was baptised and recieved first communion like all the rest of my family, by the age of confirmation I already had enough doubt to drop out of confirmation classes. My concern is not that allowing the baptism will increase the odd of my children being believers as even at this early stage I enourage scientific enquiry and critical thinking. 


What concerns me is that by being a part of a religious ceremony, and making vows as to the religious upbringing of my children that I have no intention of keeping in order to flatter the illusions of my family,  I am being as hypocritical as the church that I left, and this does not make a good starting point for my job to raise my children with morals but withour religion.

I still think you are making a mountain out of a mole hill. On top of that, you are taking something which should be more centred around your child and making it about yourself. If the time came to explain why you allowed the child to be baptized you can simply explain that sometimes when you love someone you might have to do something that you may not completely agree with. Explain that family is important and certainly more important than silly superstitious rituals. Pragmatism can be a virtue when it means avoiding tension with loved ones. You can explain that this is what it means to be an adult, being the bigger person. The universe isn't ruled by absolute (though some do exist) but rather by the grey areas. If bending on baptism makes your husband and his family happy so be it, it is a relatively harmless ceremony. The only real downside is the donation to the church but so long as you aren't paying it you have no need to feel bad for it.
I agree with Kenneth.

I think if you let your children know that they have a choice on the matter of religion (which already destroys 9/10ths of indoctrination because that's pretty much what indoctrination is all about, it's more about limiting your choices than giving you information (and rather crappy info at that)), then they will be more intellectually free.

I stated this in some other forum but I'll state it again. Just make sure they learn their science! it will destroy all of that religious crap. Unfortunately, if you do send your children to catholic schools, this may become a challenge...

I hope you won't HAVE to send them to catholic schools... If you children are able to question their religion (which is honestly what everyone should be doing), they might become singled out by their peers. This wouldn't really be a fun way to grow up.

It's your call though, what ever happens, Good luck! I'm sure your love for them is all they really need in the end. :)

You got together with the family for a party. That is pretty far from stomach cramps or the dry heaves. I think you will manage to be happy after the terror of the moment is past.

The question is not whether or not I can but whether I should.  Certainly I am physically capable of lying through my teeth to a priest if I have to, after all it wouldn't be the first time!


And yes, I suppose this is more about me than about the children, it is about me finding my standing ground within my family on important points.  And I consider the level of religious upbringing of my children fairly important. 

When I had doubts on religion and god as a child I thought I was all alone.  It wasn't until I was around 14 or so and had a huge fight with my mother after telling her I didn't believe in god that my Dad came quietly to my room and told me he didn't believe in god and never had.  Up until this point I had no idea and thought that he just didn't like going to church much because it was boring.  My father is a mild mannered and kind person and had agreed to keep his disbelief to himself for my mothers sake.

My point is that for many years I felt rather let down by my Father's unwillingness to speak up.  I had been struggling for some time to come to terms with a view of the universe that didnt seem to fit with that of the people around me.  I was more than a little disappointed in what I saw as my Dad's weakness in not being open about a belief that is so fundamental to how we live our lives.


I want my children to be raised outside of religion, to learn, in as much as it is possible , about religions from the outside not he inside, and this, to me, is just the first small step in the wrong direction.



I say don't do it. Heck, if your husband's family wants to hold to tradition, then *traditionally* a child takes his mother's religion. In your case, none! Of course that's not likely to go over very well, but it's a funny thought that has occurred to me a few times.

I disagree that it is a meaningless ceremony. It is a ceremony that is rife with pressure and expectations, not to mention the disgusting pushing of those expectations onto your little one. You are expected to stand there and promise to give your child to god and you are expected to mumble those phrases that go against your core values. And my question is, why are your MIL's feelings and desires for your kids more important than yours? Plus, if you agree to the baptism, then you are giving a silent nod of assent to religion. It could open the door for further pushing on on other things down the road...going to mass more frequently, saying a meal time prayer at your house if your MIL and FIL are over for dinner, pushing to have your kids confirmed or to take communion or go to confession. And even if those things don't happen, it could open the door to religious gifts and icons being given.

As for the godparents thing, you can totally do that without having a religious ceremony. My son has a "godfather" who is also an atheist. He calls himself his godfather and takes him out to do things, buys him cool birthday presents and spends holidays with us. He's also agreed to share custody of him with another family should something happen to me and my husband...there is NO WAY our boy is going to either one of our birth families! Choosing a legal guardian for your kids is a much more reliable and meaningful way to ensure that your kid has that solid person in his life.

How does your husband really feel about this? You said he is "mostly" lapsed catholic, so does that mean he supports his mother in her rally? If he doesn't care much one way or the other, then maybe you can tell him how much *not* doing this means to you. In the end, he married your. You're now his family and he should be willing and able to side with you when it comes to raising your kids.


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